This Baseline~

It’s a constant dichotomy, this life without Chuck.

The promise (if that is the right way to describe it) that we all hear, after going through a death or traumatic event (sometimes they are one and the same), is about finding that new normal.

This so-called new normal of mine, since April 21, 2013, is a life lived without Chuck.  Which is emotionally and physically exhausting, no matter which way I try to navigate it.  Practical, day to day, living, is a crap shoot.  Emotions…well, life has to be lived, and shit has to get done, so I can’t lie abed all day, I can’t curl up in a fetal position in the corner, so I have to get up and do the living thing.

In these 3 years and 4 months since Chuck died, I’ve been laying a foundation for the next part of my life;  I’ve been writing my first book and putting together my first public presentation on this Odyssey of Love, and thinking. thinking, thinking, constantly, and working every day, creating workshops, networking, reaching out in every way I can to those around me.

And I’m tired.  Bone  tired.  Soul tired.  Exhausted.  Today I realized that my body is strung as tightly as a rubber band right before it snaps.  My nerves are humming along the surface of my skin.  My heart is racing.  I must consciously remind myself to take a breath.  There is a consistent, low-grade itching all over my body.  My mind feels as tightly wound as my body and all I want to do is run shrieking into whatever oblivion I can find.

I can’t do this anymore.  And yet, this is what I have, what I am, where I am, so I must.

So I use my homeopathic remedies for grief and trauma.  Star of Bethlehem.  Ignatia Amara.  Rescue Remedy.  Relaxation essential oil on my pulse points and in a mister that shoots the scent into this room where I sit.

What do you do when you can’t stand the silence and the alone-ness and the missing-ness any longer, but you have to stand it because this is it?  This is life now, simply stated.  Chuck will always be dead, for the rest of my life.

In order to create this part of my life that will bring me into a semblance of financial security, I have to project, in some measure, into the future.  A future I don’t want to consider because it is a future without him.  But I have to consider that future, practically thinking, no matter what I feel at any given moment.

Doing so hitches my breath and causes anxiety to rise in frantic measures to every nerve ending.  It is as if flood waters are pouring through a breached wall.

I allow some of this to happen;  I know the futility of trying to hold it back.  But, at the same time, how much do I allow and how much control do I have with it and over it?

Rhetorical questions, all.   I do what I can to manage it all, but I know it’s a temporary fix.  I’ve done counseling, one on one, and in a group.  I’ve gone through various trauma modalities, and they have made a difference.  But none of it can remove what this new normal is, what it will be for the time I have left living;  Chuck is dead and life without him is empty.

And, honestly, none of this is a plea for sympathy.   I’ll still do whatever needs to be done to create some semblance of a life for the rest of my life.  Nor is this a pity party.  It is, simply, an acknowledgement from me that this life of widowhood is the most difficult, unbearable, impossible, thing I’ve ever tried to do and my heart hurts.  Desperately.

I miss my husband.  I miss Chuck.  The space next to me, where he stood for 24 years, is empty.  And I cannot convey to you in any real way what it feels like, what this life feels like, without him.  It is silence and it is loneliness and it is emptiness, no matter how I strive to change it or accept it or balance it.  It is as if I’m blindly throwing darts at an unseen dart board, with no idea of where or how they land.

That’s all.

 

 

Ignorance Gives Me Writing Material~

A huge shout out to a person no longer in my life, and her partner, for providing material for this blog.

This topic has only arisen a couple of times since I began my Odyssey of Love, and I addressed it then, and will now.  Possibly laying it to rest, now and forever.  Amen.

*I do not write this with angst.  I simply wish to address the issue*

Recently, this person accused me of driving all around the country as if I am on vacation.

Webster’s Dictionary defines vacation as a period spent away from home or business in travel or amusement.

First of all…sigh….

Second of all…sigh followed by raised eyebrow as if to say seriously?

So…I haven’t had a sticks and bricks home since May 29, 2009 when Chuck and I sold it and went on the road together.  My home, now, and since October 2013 has been my T@b trailer.   My home on the road, as it were.

And this is for amusement…how?  Wow.  If this particular male personage defines vacation by what I’m doing,  then thank you very much but I’ll pass on going on one with you!  My idea of a vacation is more along the lines of a white sand beach in a warm climate, on a very comfy lounger, with a seriously good book, sipping non-alcoholic but delicious drinks with umbrellas in them.  It most definitely is not my husband’s cremains sitting on the passenger seat next to me.  With the flag from his memorial service next to his cremains.  untitledbbbLiving in a trailer, driving headlong into grief on a continual basis, but meeting up with so much love from those I meet on the road *except from you.  No love from you.  And, apparently, not even a wisp of a clue about my Odyssey, bless your heart*

Here’s the thing, folks.  Or folk.  Person.  You know who you are.  This Odyssey of Love is so not a vacation.  Duh. It is my life.  The same way that the life Chuck and I led on the road was not a vacation;  it was how we lived.  Now it is how I live.  I’m doing it on a wing and a prayer because it is what I need to do.  And in these last 4 years since Chuck’s death, I’ve been building a foundation that will, I say hopefully and prayerfully, take me into the next part of my life with some semblance of financial security.

I do, of course, fully realize that there are people in life, those who exist to tear others down, who cannot see beyond what they were taught to see.  They do not, and cannot, envision a life lived simply, with few accumulated material possessions, a life that doesn’t conform to a narrow-eyed version of the precepts with which they were raised.  Where, you know, people matter more than things and life is a continually unfolding mystery on a daily basis.

I was raised to look beyond my own vision, to look at possibilities, to use my imagination as a vehicle for what could be instead of what is.  That is the very thing that allowed me to say yes to Chuck when he suggested selling it all and going out on the road together.  Individually, we didn’t care to fit into the so-called norm.  Together we forged a life beyond what we could see and, in the process, we found others of similar thinking, and I thank god for it.

Chuck’s death blew my world into smithereens.  I took what I’d learned in our 4 years on the road, I took what I’d been taught about having imagination and vision, and I bought a trailer and stepped way outside my comfort zone, choosing to live a gypsy life.  It isn’t always easy, by any means, but in my thinking, it’s no more difficult than living in an apartment somewhere.  And I’ll continue living it until I’m done living it.

Vacation?  Jesus, I’d love to take one.

Book one for me, won’t you?

*more response blogs, as I call them, coming soon to a computer near you*

#thankyouforignorantpeoplewhogivemewritingmaterial

 

 

Sigh…(what people say)….

A friend of long standing, now a former friend for various reasons, recently accused me of dragging my good husband’s name around.  It is quite shameful, she stated.

Followed with I know things about Chuck, indiscretions (regarding women) but it would be unkind to say things about the dead, plus you wouldn’t believe me.

You think?

I only mention this because I guess I’m still floored when people get viscious to suit their own needs, and passively-aggressively attack Chuck, through me.   And, also, because I’m  a storyteller and such obvious dribble is rich in the telling.

Honestly, reading what she wrote immediately struck me as humorous.  I’m stronger now, 4 years later, than I was when a close family member threw similar ugly words at me, not realizing that she really wasn’t maligning me, but a person she claimed to love.  Similar to this latest attempt.

4 years ago, the ugly words sent me to my knees and it took me years to deal with the trauma.  Not the words that were said, because I knew them not to be true (as I know these words not to be true), but because, back then, days after his death, I was raw and on the floor with grief and I allowed her words to get into my bones for a brief second and I thought are those words trueDid I not truly know the man I was married to for 24 years? Because he couldn’t have been who she described, and be the man I  knew.  There was a clanging dissonance between those two images.  The words, by themselves, weren’t what caused trauma for me.  What caused the trauma was the idea that I’d even allowed a nanosecond of doubt, as a result of her words, to creep in, and that made me feel as if I’d betrayed Chuck, which devastated me.

It’s funny, really, how people, claiming to love a person who is now dead, while claiming that of course they’d never slander the dead….do that very thing, in hopes of destroying the one left alive.   Whoa.  Fucked up humans, right?

I guess I didn’t realize the strength that now resides in my bones and my heart and soul, since Chuck’s death.  These latest words only made me shake my head that this person, who knew of the first circumstance, couldn’t even be original;  instead, knowing my reaction the first time, she made an attempt to piggyback, hoping for….I don’t know…that I’d be destroyed once again.

All it did was make me realize my present day strength.  And more, it made me realize the ugliness that can exist in a person’s soul when envy and jealousy take over.   It made me realize that my mom was right, years ago, when she taught me to always consider the source when ugly words get thrown.

Oh, also…that part about dragging my husband’s name around?  I’m not quite certain what was meant by that.  Am I dragging his name through the mud, as she attempted to do?  Besmirch his reputation, as she’s trying to do?

Each day, as I travel this Odyssey, I honor Chuck’s name and I honor the legacy of love that he left behind, not just for me, but for so many others, and there is nothing about that that suggests dragging.  The love story that Chuck and I had is my story, one he left with me.  I own it.

And to those who would say otherwise, my response is the same as it was to the woman who accused me of the same thing early on…

Find your own damn love story.

*Names purposefully left out of this blog.  The names/relationships are un-necessary*

 

 

 

 

 

Names and What they Carry~

I kept my maiden name when Chuck and I married.   It was, in fact, a condition, so to speak.  Not long after he’d proposed to me, I approached him one day and told him I had something I had to tell him.

My first marriage was emotionally and physically abusive and ended in divorce. It took me a long time to find my center again, once I’d gotten away from my ex.  I took back my maiden name at the time of my divorce and I recall, once the judge banged the gavel and declared me divorced, stepping up on the railing that ran around his high desk, and reaching across to shake his hand, thanking him for my freedom.

So, I told Chuck, I wanted to keep my maiden name when he and I married.  I’d fought long and hard and my own identity was important.  He breathed a sigh of relief and said is that all?  I thought you were going to say you didn’t want to marry me!

Chuck was proud of me over the years of our marriage.  He kind of liked it that I had my own name, and he encouraged my independence.

Somewhere in our 20th year, he asked me one day if I’d re-think taking his last name.  For no particular reason;  just that he liked the idea of sharing our last name.  I did consider it but I was building a name professionally, with my maiden name, and didn’t want to muck that up.  So I stayed Miller.

In our 23rd year of marriage, out traveling on the road as Happily Homeless, the question came up again.  He said it differently that time, and I really, really, thought about it.  I could feel his feeling about it, but I hesitated again.  I was so attached to my name; it spoke to who I was, even if it no longer mattered professionally.  There was, on his part, understanding but some disappointment also.

Why do I bring this up now?  Because, running around in my mind and my brain in the last few days, I’m thinking about his request again.   Maybe taking his last name now will give me a closer connection to him, now that he’s no longer by my side.  Of course, I know that connections happen in the heart, in our minds, but I acknowledge, too, that what we do externally can affect a change internally and perhaps taking his last name of Dearing would give me a further sense of that connection.

I don’t know yet.  My heart is still ruminating over the idea.  Practically speaking, I can’t afford it at the moment, in any case.  But it’s interesting to me that, 4 years out from his death, this idea is rising up in me again.

Alison Miller or Alison Dearing?

When He Smiled at Me~

Sometimes it can be too painful, after a loved one dies, to look at pictures of them.   Not because we don’t want to see their faces and remember back, but because the very act of remembering back is a stark reminder that those times are gone, never to return.

That happens to me when I look at pictures of my beloved husband, Chuck.  It tears into me that those lovely, loving days of being loved by him, of being his special someone…those days are gone, never to return.

And yes, I’m so beyond grateful that I had those years with him.  But that has nothing to do with this grief at his death, or the daily missing-ness of him.

But, even so, I look at pictures of him.  Often.  Even as it causes daggers to my heart and tears choke me.

I look because I know he’s looking at me.

In most of the pictures I have of him, he’s smiling.  And I know that he’s looking directly at the camera…at me…the woman he loved, as I snapped a picture to preserve that particular memory.  So even as the tears come, I smile, because I know he’s looking directly at me, smiling at me with all the love in his heart showing in his eyes as they crinkle, and on his lips.  Sexy smiles, devilish smiles, smiles of love and joy, his eyes glinting at me, sharing secrets that we carried between us. Smiles that conveyed promises of passion and enjoyment for both of us, later on when we’d be alone. Smiles of love.  I half expect him to wink at me from those long ago moments…

I’m the recipient of that smile.  I was the recipient of his smile for 24 years and what a gift it is to me to know that little ol’ me brought such a smile to his face.

I love you, D.  Always.  Collage1Collage2

This Ugly World…but, oh….the Love~

It’s overwhelming, isn’t it?  The ugliness of the world, I mean.  At a time when I, and many other widow/ers are trying to figure out our own smaller worlds, without our beloveds in our life.   At a time when the world already seems so unsafe and so uncertain because that person, our person, is no longer here, and then…another big ugly thing happens.

Chuck was active duty during 9/11.  He wasn’t able to come home until near midnight on that day and I was filled with anxiety, anticipating that McGuire AFB, where he was stationed, would be the next target for the terrorists.  But he did come home and I felt safer and reassured as soon as I saw him and was able to hug him.  He was able to tell me things  in the days and weeks after that made me feel more okay even though the world remained insane.  He was there with his solid presence, his calm manner, and…I felt better.

There have been numerous terrorist events since his death, and at each one, I have missed him more.  I’m grateful I have my adult kids, my friends, to whom I can speak about my anxieties, about the ugliness of it, but, at the end of the day, his side of the bed is still empty and the conversations continue in my head, because his arms aren’t around me.

My world felt safer with Chuck in it.

I was at a Where Womyn Gather festival in the Poconos when Orlando happened.  I didn’t hear about it til the late afternoon;  I was off the grid.  As a group, a couple hundred women stood around a huge fire that had been kept burning through the weekend and we offered our prayers to the skies above, and we hugged each other.  A lot.

That’s really all I know how to do since Chuck died.  Hug people, I mean.  My brain doesn’t seem to function as well as it did as far as figuring shit out, so I don’t think much.  And so much doesn’t matter to me anyways.  Mostly it seems that much of what our culture, and the world at large, values, carries no value for me.  And I feel overwhelmed and helpless when it comes to the ugliness of the world.

So, I hug people.  And I accept hugs from people.   Then I drive somewhere else and I hug people there, wherever there happens to be.  The pink of my car and trailer bring smiles to those I meet on the highways and  backroads of this country, and I’m glad for that; smiles are good.  The color of my rig draws people to me and they tell me what is in their hearts or what lies heavy on their minds as we sit in the pink chairs that I put out next to my trailer.  Sometimes we share a glass of pink lemonade that I make sure to have on hand.

In a world of what I can’t do, I find what I can do.  I can, and do, open my heart to Love, more fully than ever.  I hug more people, and I hug them tightly.  I’m a really good hugger.  In some circles, I actually have quite a reputation for being an excellent hugger.  In that, if you’ve been hugged by me, you know you’ve been hugged.  I like that I have such a reputation.  If that is the only legacy I leave behind, then I’m pleased.

I have to focus on the Love that is bigger, or go insane with grief.  Not only personally, because of my own grief but grief for  the world at large.  Yes, another man took his rage that had many sources, and murdered 49 people.  And a man in France, using the same excuse, horribly stole the lives of a husband and wife and left their 3 year son an orphan.  Yes, yes, yes…the ugliness continues on and on, forever.

But so does the Love.  I insist upon the Love.  It’s all I can do.  It’s the only power I have.  I don’t have it in the huge, world sense, but I do have it in my small world sense and the Love I give in my small world has the possibility of rippling out into other’s worlds, again and again and again.

I hold onto this, in this time, again and again and again, when I cry out for Chuck to put his arms around me and tell me that, in the midst of nothing being okay in this ugly world, it’s still okay, because there is always, always and forever, Love that is always present and bigger, even though it seems not present and much smaller than hate or grief or uncertainty.

My soul insists and demands that Love must be stronger.

Remember that.  Hold onto it.  Surround yourself with it.  Immerse those around you in it.  Send it out to the loved ones who are new to the world of grief.  Send it out again and again and again and never stop.

Please, never stop.

#LongLiveLove

Grief…Preplanned. Ain’t it Precious?

“When my husband goes, I’m not going to hang on to my grief. I’m celebrating the time I had with him and the memories. Each and every person deals with it in his or her way, but I don’t think my husband would want me to be sad and carry that burden. I told my husband if I go before him, re-marry with my blessing and don’t spend time living in grief over my maybe departure. I would want him to be happy and not be bowed down with my passing. I would miss my husband, but I would not carry it on for years. he would want me to move on with my life and remember the times we had together. and not be grief stricken a long time. I would make friends and make the most out life. It would be sad, and I would feel it, but I would let myself heal.  I have a pink car and trailer but I’m letting it go for him when he’s here to help him money wise.”

This blog plopped directly in my lap, gifted to me by a woman who wrote the above comment in response to a picture I posted on one of my camping pages.  Mind you, the picture was one of me smiling, triumphant because I finally, 3 years later, completely emptied my storage unit, leaving me with what travels with me in my T@b trailer.   My mistake, obviously, was that I also mentioned that it was a significant accomplishment, not because of the stuff, but because it was a letting go of the future my husband and I planned together.

*note to self; never, EVER, mention grief to anyone, or my husband if at the same time as mentioning that he’s, you know, dead, and that makes me kind of sad and I miss him because people get the heebie-geebies when real emotions get expressed*

So here’s my response, and, yes, I get so many frickin’ points for diplomacy and efforts to educate, and, also, patience…

Dear woman whose husband isn’t dead yet but you’re smart so you’re pre-planning your emotional response to the time that he does become, you know…dead;

How precious that you know how you’ll respond to your husband’s death!  How further precious it is for you to be so far-sighted to plan for that certain event!  I see that you also covered the possibility that you might go first, leaving instructions for him to remarry (though you seem to allow him some small amount of time to grieve so that’s big of you).  Why, it just fills my heart with warmth as I’m assured that you want him to be happy and not bowed down by grief and that he’ll just..you know…get on with it.  As will you if he dies first.  There’s just nothing better than pre-planning an emotional response for which you have no real world experience, and it saddens me that I, and so many of my widowed brothers and sisters didn’t just tear a page out of your planning book!  Why, there’s no telling how great we could all be doing right now!

I, of course, had no idea that the secret to going through this grief was so simple and I thank you for enlightening me.  Who knew that instead of allowing this grief to take its’ course and allowing it space and being honest about it wasn’t the answer?  I’VE BEEN DOING IT ALL WRONG!  I see now that all I needed to do was celebrate the years we had together and resolve not to be sad and make friends!  It’s precious, I tell you!  Precious!  Because for all these 3 years of Chuck being, you know, dead, I’ve allowed myself to have the normal, natural reaction to the death of a man I loved more than life itself, and I’ve been thankful for and loved the years we had together but…fuck!  My mistake was that I’ve allowed those memories to break my heart because every time I remember, I also remember that those times are gone.  Well, just seriously FML!!  I’ve made hundreds of friends and connected with people all around the country but FUCK! none of them have replaced him in that place in my heart and that’s clearly my bad and a conscious wrong choice on my part.  WHEN will I ever learn, right?

I just don’t know WHY it doesn’t matter a tinker’s damn to me that Chuck wanted me to be happy after he died; a failing on my part, I acknowledge, and if he were here and insisted that he wanted me to be happy, I’d tell him IT JUST DOESN’T FRICKIN’ WORK THAT WAY and I’d be happy to go round and round with him that you just don’t tiptoe through the fucking tulips when shit like this happens.  I do know that I knew…know…my husband enough to say that he’d look at me like I was bat shit crazy that he wouldn’t know that and he’d understand completely that it takes the time it takes, but I’m so, so, SO, glad and happy for you that you’d carry on so easily and oh, I know!  Perhaps you could write a book about being a widow before you even become one and you could show those of us who are already widowed the RIGHT way to do widowhood and you could help other women and men pre-plan their emotional response to the death of their other half and you could get rich and be on Oprah and everything and that is also just so precious that I almost want to throw up in my mouth but I won’t because that wouldn’t be precious…

It’s just the silliest thing ever that I still feel sad and miss my husband and I just know you know that!  Why, 3 years is way too long to go on and on and carry on about him and what we had together and how much I miss that and, why, I won’t even mention what it’s like to no longer have passion and wild sex in my life with a man who was just as much in love with me as I was with him, just to name one thing that’s gone, because really, who cares about that stuff and it just isn’t proper, you know, to talk about such things!  And my goodness, it just doesn’t matter, does it, that the life I had with him in the present and the future we had planned just evaporated and poofed away and how on earth anyways is that grief-connected?  Apparently, you are so upset by my expression of my emotions that you don’t even see the smile of triumph on my face in that picture, or my celebration of this huge undertaking (do you see what I did there?  Undertaking…get it?  I wrote undertaking, which sounds like undertaker, the person who is, as you know, the one who takes dead people away.  Like my husband.  Who was dead.  Who is dead.)  Apparently you see it as no accomplishment at all that, hand in hand with my grief is a massive amount of love that gets me in my car every day to drive and drive and drive around this country, meeting and connecting with people, hugging and getting hugs.  That I do this even though it would be much easier to just lay down and die.  That every widow/er I know has the guts to get up every day and live WITH their fucking grief, and that we have the fucking guts to walk with each other through this foreign terrain and laugh and smile with each other and keep company with each other and give hope to each other when we don’t even know what the frickin’ word means…well, woman who knows how she’ll do this and dares to judge me for how I’m handling this fucking widow clusterfuck…I don’t know what to tell you about us except that we KNOW what this is like and we’re doing it and one of the ways we’re doing it is by talking and writing and making it as real to others as we can.

I do lament and commiserate with you that you are bowed down and, it seems, threatened by my grief, or any expression thereof.  It must be difficult for you to read how I’m handling it when you clearly know that all this emotion and sadness is so unnecessary because it’s all about just clicking on the happy switch and voila! No more grief…yay!

Just a friendly little note as you pre-plan your response to your husband’s death: 

I don’t care how strong you are, I don’t care how independent you are, I don’t care how sure you are….there is no planning this.  Whoever is left behind…it will feel as if you have been thrown onto a strange planet where no man or woman has ever walked before, and your feet will stumble into potholes and your heart will be wrenched from your body and you will see it on the ground in front of you being mashed into a bloody mess and guess what?  You can’t just flip a switch and make it go away, and years later, tears will still fill your soul and your eyes when you speak of the love that is now only in your heart and you will always miss his arms around you and his kiss on your lips and the surety that you, and only you, were special to someone special, once upon a time…

Or you might not.

Whatever. 

P. S.  Carry on…